As the borders of the physical and digital worlds are increasingly blurred, eSports have become a modern reality. eSports events can involve multiplayer tournaments of conventional online games such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive, or real athletes performing with sports game software.

A good example of real sports as eSports is the recent recruitment of Kieran Brown and Sean Allen as e-players, using the FIFA World Cup game for the Manchester City and West Ham British Football clubs respectively. As always, the development of something so interesting in the world of sports has been on our radar for some time.

Any competition that is made possible by electronic devices can be considered an eSport. And now the discipline will be recognised as an official medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games in China. The upcoming Indoor and Martial Arts Games of 2017, held in Turkmenistan, will also be introducing eSports to its line-up.

Mainstream eSports Recognition

Initially a popular spectator sport across Asia, it seems fitting that this is where the campaigns to get eSports more recognised are first coming to major mainstream incorporation. The Asian Games is second only to the Olympics in terms of multi-sports events, so fully including eSports in the competition is widely considered a big step towards general recognition of competitive sport gaming. The Olympic Council of Asia made the announcement of the inclusion in the 2022 games recently, and has also formed a partnership with Alisports (the Alibaba Sports group subsidiary that was established in 2015) in a bid to introduce eSports to the 2018 Indonesian Games too.

Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah, president of the Olympic Council of Asia, has confirmed that Alisports will be helping the Council to develop in the eSports industry thanks to the organisation’s considerable experience in the field. Al-Sabah has also commented that the Olympic Council of Asia has always been committed to developing and improving the continent’s sporting world, a clear indication of their position on the future importance of eSports.

Recognising eSports is the only real course of action for world bodies to take, and should be hugely lucrative for bookmakers. William Hill became the first firm to accept eSport bets, at its Las Vegas offices in November 2016. The all-important younger generation market sector is increasingly involved as players and spectators of eSports, and those in the know are following the money. Plans for a multi-level competitive gaming area have just been announced by MGM, and the University of Utah intends to offer eSports scholarships soon.

Las Vegas is also capitalising on the growing eSports trend, and as the gambling capital of the world they have to keep their finger on the pulse of what’s hot and happening, or risk losing out. eSports arena’s are set to crop up all over the Strip, and the Luxor Hotel and Casino will soon be home to the first cutting edge global eSports destination, with many other venues following suite.

Major eSports Earnings

With more recognition comes more money, and top eSports players are already making more money than most physical Olympic athletes. At The International 2016 tournament held in Seattle the top prize was almost $9 million, and even the lowest-placing team took a $101,395 consolation prize home.

A Newzoo research report published in 2016 reported eSports revenue of more than $493 million that year, and more than 320 global spectators. Alisports put ore that $14.5 million into the 2017 Changzhou World Electronic Sports Games, and the subsidiary’s commitment to eSport development has not stopped there.

The South Korean International eSports Federation has lobbied for eSports to be included in the Olympics for some time, and has just had a $150 million investment from Alisports. It seems safe to say that interest in watching eSports for entertainment, and interest in how much of a money-spinner that is and could continue to be, is growing.

On Track for Further Acceptance

The recognition of eSports as an Olympic sport may take some time yet, but its incorporation into the Asian Games and the favourable response to that suggests that this is a very likely possibility. Alibaba recently signed $1 billion, decade-long sponsorship deal for the Summer and Winter Olympics, and other signs give further evidence; Inner Mongolia’s Xiligol Vocational College will soon offer an eSports degree.

Projected eSports gambling industry growth by 2020 is around $30 billion, and bookmakers will all want a piece of that pie. Further incorporation, enjoyment and spending in the arena of eSports seems like an almost organic evolution in our increasingly man-made world, and the best thing for everyone to do is get on board.